Unintended consequences/Chamonix Bike Ban

If a MTBer rides a trail and no one can see it, did they ride the trail?

In 1958 Chairman Mao, the well known mountain biker and modernist, issued a decree titled “the four pests campaign” with the intention of purging China of (the latest) four greatest enemies of the people: Rats, mosquitos, flies and sparrows.

To deal with the particular threat of the sparrow, the nation was mobilised. Men, women, children and, the linchpin of any agricultural based economy, grandparents unleashed their full fury on the mighty and terrifying sparrow. In addition to the obvious tactics of smashing the nests, breaking the eggs and just running about shooting the birds, whole cities would turn out in their millions to bang pots together and scare the poor things into the air. The cacophony would continue for hours, sometimes days, stopping the sparrows from landing until they dropped, dead exhausted, from the sky.

Want to ride this in July or August? No one's stopping you, it's on the Vallorcine side of Le Tour, and in Switzerland.

Alas, it turned out the evil winged consumer of grain and rice was also a kinda useful consumer of pests and insects. Whilst the sparrows did eat the crops, they didn’t eat anything like the amount that the insects who were thriving in their absence did.

Posettes. In September you can lap this and hardly meet anyone. In July and August.....pure hoaching.

There was nothing for it. Mao had to change his 4 least favourite animals to rat, mosquito, fly and bed bug, let the sparrow re-establish itself, and then get on with believing 150 grams of rice was a reasonable daily ration (is there a graph plotting percentage of a nation underweight verses said nations leader’s obesity?) and that melted down woks would produce high enough grade steel to build an industrialised nation. These latest great leaps forward would help him into the very upper tier of despots, and contribute to the death of somewhere between 30 and 55 million people, to date still a dictator high score of own peoples killed through incompetence and hubris.

Lucky the incompetent and hubristic world leader is a thing of the past eh.

Chamonix's most photogenic corner. No can do in July and August.

Of course, what’s the issue with a few million deaths when you have the far more important first world problem of not getting to ride a handful of trails and 3 lifts for 2 months of the year. Snowflakes.

So yeah, there’s this “bike ban” thing in Chamonix, which from some of the comments floating about the internet (and comments on social media and forums are obviously representative of the majority of human opinion) seems to mean to most folk that all trails in Chamonix and a 50km radius are completely forbidden to bikes, all the year, and that it’s some form of dark conspiracy against anyone holding a lift pass from Compagnie du Mont Blanc so they can take your money then stop you from using the lifts.

Off the back of Le Tour. No walkers and no worries.

First off, the Chamonix bike ban, or Arrete du Marie 006872/2016  to give it it’s Sunday name, is only applied during July and August, and only on the trails within the Chamonix commune (and with the exception of those exceptions listed in the arrete). The rest of the time the trails are just as legal to ride as anywhere else in Haute Savoie. July and August also happens to be the busiest times of year for walkers and trail runners, the trails in the valley are just too busy to get any flow going. I get that if you’re only going to be in Chamonix for 1 week of your life and it’s August and you really, really want to ride from Brevent then it’s frustrating, but for everyone else, there’re better places to ride during those months. Ban or no ban. There’s a minority of riders that really ain’t helping things either by not using the universal “don’t be a dick” rule and no slowing down whiles passing other folk on the trails, skidding their way through cut lines and generally being dicks.

Don’t be a dick.

Les Houches DH trail. Somewhere that walkers ain't allowed and bikes are, so you can be a dick to any you pass on the track. Or not.

As for the lifts, again, the only lifts closed to bikes that are otherwise open are the Brevent and Flegere lifts. So Le Tour, Grand Montets, Les Houches, Tramway du Mont Blanc (and if you have the annual or summer season pass Les Contamines, Megeve, St Gervais, Combloux) are all still open during the ban. And you can still go the Brevent and Flegere lifts.

You just canny take your bike.

Or wingsuit.

I couldn't find a good photo from GM, so here's another from Brevent. In October, when the lifts were open and you could take your bike on them.

From Grand Montets only the Lavancher bowl trail is officially open, though strangely there never seems to be many people on any of the other ways down from there….probably because most of them are a bit rubbish.

Another Brevent trail. They're not that much fun anyways.

Le Tour; yup, Posettes trails are included in the ban area. Plenty of folk ignore the closure, it’s a cracking trail after all, but during the morning through most of the day it’s hoaching with walkers so really, what’s the point of never getting to ride at any speed when you could hit any of the trails from the Vallorcine gondola legally and with way less traffic? Or you could pedal up to the trails down from Loriaz chalets. Then there’s all the trails over in Switzerland that start from Le Tour.

Lorne on a trail somewhere above Vallorcine and below the telecabine. All legal, all year, always quiet.

Les Houches, like Vallorcine, isn’t in the Chamonix commune so the arrete doesn’t apply. Instead they have their own arrete, Arrete No 13/046, which prohibits biking only on the “great walking trails” implying any of the not so great trails are fine…. GR5 counts as a great trail, officially and critically. Those of you who’ve spent too much time watching legal dramas will probably notice that the linked arrete is only valid until 30th September 2013, and no I canny find a more up to date document online, wouldn’t it be ironic if bringing this to attention got it updated in a more draconian manner.

A grand trail, but not a great trail. Or is it the other way around? Either ways, above Les Houches and all there for the taking whenever you want.

So aye, it’s frustrating, not getting to ride on the doorstep in Chamonix, but for plenty folks the result of the ban is just looking a bit further afield. Looking closer at the trails they can ride in the valley, looking where they can ride at Le Tour and Les Houches, looking where they can ride beyond the valley. If that’s too hard, try having a look at the trails suggested in the Chamonix Bike Book, or hire a guide. Mibbies as the numbers of VTTists at Les Houches and Le Tour continue to rise, forced out of the more convenient spots to town, the Marie will be forced to make changes to further fill its coffers with biking dollar and reinstate the bike trails at Flegere.

Doubt it. More importantly, it’s not that big an issue, quit whining.

If not getting to use a lift to the start of this trail, riding up instead, then getting stopped by a PGHM gadgie and told not to be a dick is the worst thing that happens to you this year, you're having a good year.

If you want to read more about China (sorry, CHYNAAH. Trump rules) then give Wild Swans by Jung Chang a go.